Six high-impact offseason NFL moves

Assessing the potential risks and rewards of moves around the league

September 09, 2010|By Ken Murray, The Baltimore Sun

In the NFL's uncapped summer of risk and reward, rosters have been reworked, depth charts gutted and fortunes undeniably altered.

Now we find out who made the best moves of the offseason.

In a league in which passing is king, here are six potentially high-impact players on offense who changed teams this summer, and what the effect of those changes might be

WR Anquan Boldin, Ravens

Itinerary: Boldin was traded from the Arizona Cardinals to the Ravens on March 8.

The risk: He was the No. 2 receiver in Arizona behind Larry Fitzgerald. Now he's the No. 1 guy in Baltimore, and that comes with higher expectations and more attention from the defense. At 29, he has played 16 games only twice in seven NFL seasons and missed both of Arizona's playoff games last season with an ankle sprain.

The payoff: The 6-foot-1, 217-pound Boldin will be the go-to receiver in the red zone on a team that all too often settled for field goals instead of scoring touchdowns in 2009. He went to the Pro Bowl last year with the Cardinals — for the third time — and has 586 career catches with 44 receiving touchdowns. He is a tough, gritty receiver with no fear. If Joe Flacco takes the next step as a passer, it likely will be Boldin who gives him the biggest push.

QB Jake Delhomme, Browns

Itinerary: Delhomme signed a two-year contract with the Cleveland Browns eight days after he was released by the Carolina Panthers in March.

The risk: Delhomme is 35 and coming off his worst year since becoming a starter. After getting a new quarterbacks coach in Carolina last season, he threw 13 interceptions in his first six games, finishing with 18 and ending the year on injured reserve. The Panthers were so disenchanted with Delhomme, they cut him even though they still owe him $12.5 million in guarantees on a 2009 contract extension.

The payoff: A natural leader, Delhomme settled in nicely with the Browns in preseason. In eight quarters, he completed nearly 80 percent of his throws, suffered only one sack and threw no interceptions. While his experience in invaluable — he has played in two NFC championship games — it's his leadership the Browns appreciate most at a position where they've had none since they got an expansion team.

WR Terrell Owens, Bengals

Itinerary: After the Buffalo Bills opted not to bring him back for a second season, Owens signed a one-year contract with the Cincinnati Bengals on July 27.

The risk: Forget for the moment that Owens is a self-absorbed personality who is only happy when the attention is on him. He is 36 years old, entering his 15th NFL season and has had increasing trouble hanging on to passes late in his career. His 55 catches last year were his lowest for a full season since his rookie year. He and Chad Ochocinco will be the most controversial receiving tandem in the league this year, though probably not the most productive.

The payoff: The potential is there for Carson Palmer to have the most potent passing game of his time in Cincinnati. Owens may talk a lot, but he comes to play. He has missed just one game in the past four years. Against single coverage, Owens could well have a comeback season and push the Bengals to the verge of the Super Bowl.

WR Brandon Marshall, Dolphins

Itinerary: A fourth-round pick by the Denver Broncos in 2006, Marshall was traded to the Miami Dolphins for two second-round picks in April.

The risk: Marshall has been suspended by the NFL and the Broncos during his tumultuous four-year career in Denver. He has been known to punt passes rather than catch them. And he had a spell in training camp this summer in which he had a run of dropped passes. Behavior is the watchword for Marshall in Miami.

The payoff: For all of his erratic behavior, Marshall, just 26, is still the most dangerous receiver in the NFL. He has had three straight 100-catch seasons and 10 100-yard receiving games. Like Boldin and Flacco in Baltimore, Marshall can give Chad Henne and the Dolphins a quick-strike passing game. Against the New England Patriots' suspect secondary, he is a major weapon. Marshall against the New York Jets' Darrelle Revis is the matchup to watch.

RB LaDainian Tomlinson, Jets

Itinerary: Released after nine mostly spectacular seasons with the San Diego Chargers, Tomlinson signed a two-year contract with the Jets in March.

The risk: Running backs go downhill fast past age 30. At 31, Tomlinson's best years are behind him. Injuries hampered him a year ago, when he rushed for 730 yards — the first sub-1,000-yard season of his career — and averaged just 3.3 yards per carry. Now he'll be asked to split time with Shonn Greene (540 yards, two touchdowns last year) and replace workhorse Thomas Jones (1,402 yards, 14 TDs), whom the Jets released in the offseason.

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